True story: I have a friend who met a guy, (through a mutual friend – a fact that still stuns me in this anecdote) they hit it off and were hanging out for more than a month. Everything was great until he dipped off the radar completely – no calls, no texts, the whole nine yards. He finally resurfaced when she saw his name pop back onto her G-chat list and, feeling emboldened by her desire for answers, she sent him a message.

He responded that he really liked her and also thought that things had been going well, but it wasn’t a good time for him to be talking to a girl or starting something up because…get ready for it…he was about to stand trial for manslaughter.

All together now, everyone say it with me: “What. The. F-ck.”

Whoa! Needless to say, that ended her fascination right there, she signed off…for good. Yes, this is a story about how girls almost always “Google” a guy they meet if they’re interested in taking it further. I use that example to punctuate the argument that it’s necessary to do so not because I think every single day people stumble across potential murder defendants, I use it because this is the very thing that could happen if you don’t. Sure, it’s a long shot, but it can happen.

I’d love to say that women are totally sane and don’t feel the need to e-stalk any potential suitors, but that would be a bold-faced lie. In fact, most of them do. The truth is, however, that there are levels of Internet stalking that are acceptable, and areas that most definitely are not. It’s a vast spectrum of crazy.

The object of the game is to try and find a girl on the high-functioning side of the sliding scale and avoid the one-woman Inspector Gadgets of the dating world. The winner gets some privacy, and the loser has to enter witness protection.

So, here are some things to look out for, just in case you think you might’ve snagged a “Fatal Attraction” fish on your line. If she knows any of this about you without you telling her yourself, undo that hook and toss her back in. Then lace up your shoes and run like hell.

– Where you went to elementary school, what your JV football jersey number was, or what color the shutters on your childhood house are (I’m pretty sure that’s not the reason Google Earth was created for, ladies). These are all too much detail to glean from a garden variety Google search.

– The name of every member of your family, where they live, where you live (city or neighborhood is fine, street address = creepy) or how many cousins, nieces, nephews you have and their ages – also an e-stalking red flag. It’s OK if you accidentally scratch the surface (Facebook outs most of that anyway), just don’t start digging to China please.

And speaking of Zuckerberg’s baby, Facebook really changed the landscape of female Internet stalking practices, it’s a whole new game now. Personally, I think the natural curiosity a lot of women have to quickly scan some of your pictures – looking for any obvious signs of a girlfriend typically – is fairly harmless. I generally think most women don’t A) bother to look through all of them and B) don’t care unless they come across something really egregious – like an album called “Our Honeymoon” or “Broads I’ve Sacked.” Then you can’t blame her, obviously.

But, if she’s taking mental notes of who your closest friends are and how hot your ex-girlfriends appear to be, that’s a bit much. I’ve also known women who click on the names of any suspicious-looking females on your page – which I think is taking it way too far. Putting photos of your own life or status updates of your habits on display is one thing – that’s what you choose to share with the world – but tracking down your friends is not cool at all. I cringe at the very thought.

So basically, anything more than one could learn from a cursory glimpse at your profile or a Google search (to find out if you’re a defendant or a fugitive, of course) where they only looked at the first page or two of results is pushing it, in my opinion. Granted, this may turn up some information unintentionally (like that you were a star point guard in high school or once organized a food drive), but those tidbits are harmless and come with our indelible Internet legacies. Consider it a sign of the times we live in, and it only stands to get worse.

If you can manage to avoid the girl who pays a service like Spokeo or Intelius to run a background check and tell her everything from your salary to your blood type, you should be good.

Obviously there will be exceptions to these rules – she generally won’t Google you if you already knew each other, or if one your mutual friends can vouch for your sanity/marital status. But mainly, just go with your gut instinct if you feel like she’s too knowledgeable or involved in your business.

I live my life by the mantra, “If I can’t trust you, I just don’t date you.” That eliminates the need for e-stalking, jealousy, control issues and drama of all kinds. It would be a beautiful thing if we all did the same one day, but in the meantime boys, remember to close your shades and set your shizz to “Private.” THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID

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